This might be the best, most incredible single-day bike ride I've ever done.
I really don't want to toot my own horn too hard, here, but having now ridden the course, I know that I had good reason to be excited about it ever since I dreamed it up almost a year ago. This ride has almost everything I love about Oregon: rushing rivers, crashing waterfalls, lush fir forests, earthy pine forests, alpine meadows, and stark desert canyons. Except for the last 30 miles, it only follows quiet, scenic byways where you'll see very few other vehicles. And that last bit at least has the decency to go by quickly.
The course has everything I love about riding, too: the climbs are challenging, but not cruel. There are plenty of interludes to recover in between tough sections. The descents are fun, but never so technical that you have to waste your hard-earned potential energy by riding your brakes.
This ride will challenge you, but I think you'll appreciate that the course goes the way it does out a sense of exploration and because of the terrain, and that there are no gratuitous elements tacked on for reasons of machismo.
Riders will need to be prepared. This is a 3 bottle ride. You might never drink three bottles between refilling opportunities, but it will probably be hot enough that you'll be glad to have a little extra to dump on yourself. It's also a 3 or even 4 sandwich ride (along with plenty of ensure). I only brought 2, thinking that I'd eat at Government Camp. But I failed to realize that, basically, the ride is over
when you get to Government Camp, and I needed more sustenance to handle the climbs to get me there. Finally, you'll be riding in the desert and at 4500' and everywhere in between, at high noon and possibly into the night. Bring a range of appropriate layers for these conditions!
I don't want to be trite, but the rewards are easily commensurate with the challenge. People who complete this ride will have a new sense of what they can do.Barlow Trail 300 preride notes:
There's a Safeway next to the Best Western in Sandy that opens at 5 AM, so folks will be able to get coffee and last minute supplies.
The first couple miles have a few rollers, but nothing at all bad. Then you're down on 224 along the Clackamas, and you don't see anything particularly hill-like until a couple miles before Ripplebrook (30 miles or so).
The restrooms at the rest stop outside of Estacada are closed. The Estacada Thriftway probably won't be open yet. But there is a nice lady working the Union 76 station on Main St, and they have a restroom.
Everyone be sure to take a right at the PGE Westside Hydro project. There is a sign that says Dead End, but that's just for cars. Bicyclists are welcome to go around the gate and enjoy 6 miles of beautiful road along the river, all to themselves.
Promontory Park is your last chance for food until Ripplebrook, which doesn't open until 9. Only the slowest riders will be at Ripplebrook after it opens. The next chance to get food will be at the staffed control at Anvil Creek. From Estacada to Ripplebrook, there's water at most of the camp grounds. There is also water at Ripplebrook from the hose bib to the left of the front door.
There's no water between Ripplebrook and Anvil Creek (other than the river, and I don't want anyone to get giardia), but there is plenty of climbing on that stretch, so make sure you have enough water before you leave Ripplebrook.
There's a mile climb just before Ripplebrook, then some nice flats and gentle rollers, then it starts climbing again when you turn onto 57. It's up for a couple miles, then down to the Oak Grove Fork, then river grade to the 58 junction. 58 is a mile of up, and then a right turn onto the first paved road, 5810. 5810 starts out steep, but relents before long.
The grade varies quite a bit, but is generally up for about 4 miles. It's a lovely, empty 1 lane road with occasional turnouts. Plenty of shade and occasional good views out over the Cascades to the south.
After 4 miles, you crest 5810, and then it's rollers to the Anvil Creek control. There's a sign saying the road is closed ahead; ignore it. Allison and I will be at the end of the pavement with food and water. We'll also be happy to help you get your bike across the creek, which is about 5 feet across and maybe 4 inches deep. At the top of the bank on the other side, the pavement starts up again, and it's a fast cruise all the way down to Timothy Lake.
Lots of campgrounds and picnic grounds around the lake with lots of water and toilet facilities. If you go slightly out of your way at the junction with 42, off to the right is the Clackamas Lakes Ranger Station. If you ask the rangers nicely, they might let you use the actual flush toilet there. Regardless, the little museum/visitor center is pretty cool. Once you leave Timothy Lake, there's no more water until Bear Springs campground on OR 216.
42 leads you up from the lake to US 26. It's not at all a consistent grade, and not particularly difficult. Make a right turn onto US 26, and you lose 400 feet as you descend down to Clear Creek, and then have to earn 250 feet back again. There's a good shoulder the whole way, and the traffic wasn't too bad for me.
At the ODOT maintenance facility, follow the signs left onto OR 216 towards Maupin. About 4 miles down OR 216 is the Bear Springs campground, with toilets and water. 216 goes up and down for several miles, but then finally gets down to the business of descending about 7 miles from US 26. When the descending starts, things get quick.
Unfortunately, Juniper Market in Pine Grove has closed down, though there is a Coke machine at the trailer park. It shouldn't be a big deal, as Walter's Corner is only a few (very fast) miles away at Wapinitia. And it's only a few (very fast) miles beyond that to Maupin. In Maupin, there are a couple options for resupply -- there's Grave's Market in the main part of town, and then a couple market/delis, one on either side of the bridge across the Deschutes. There's also water and bathrooms at the Maupin city park along the river.
There is plenty of shade from Estacada all the way to Pine Grove, and from Pine Grove to Maupin goes very quickly.
It's gonna be heating up, here. After you cross Sherar's Bridge and climb up out of the Deschutes along Winter Water Creek, I would strongly suggest taking the short detour into White River Falls state park. I was already through 1 and a half of my water bottles even though I refilled at Maupin, and I was able to refill there. Plus, the falls are gorgeous, and best of all, the sprinklers were running. Standing in the sprinklers for a couple minutes was a little slice of heaven. That made the 5 miles into Tygh Valley go a lot easier, and even sustained me most of the way up the plateau on the other side. If you don't refill at White River Falls, you'll probably want to at Tygh Valley.
Once you crest the top of Wamic Market Road, it's just a few easy, rolling miles into Wamic. There's a well-stocked store there that is open until 6 PM. The Wamic control closes at 7:12, but this ride will be a lot easier for you if you make it before the store closes. If you don't have an hour in the bank, you're going to have trouble making it to Government Camp before that control closes, as the next 37 miles are pretty strenuous. If you are running late, don't give up, though -- Philippe will be manning a support stop further up NFD 48, and will come down the hill to Wamic to try to get there by 6. There's also a tavern a little outside Wamic where you can at least get water and a bite, and get your card signed if Phil isn't there yet.
I should note that I slammed face-first into a headwind in this section.
Past Wamic, the Wamic Market Road becomes Rock Creek Dam Road and then NFD 48, but it's all the same road. After about 5 miles of flattish road past Wamic, you pass the turn-off to Rock Creek Reservoir and the (already light) traffic falls off precipitously. Unfortunately, at almost the exact same time, you start getting periodic expansion cracks in the pavement. It'll drive you crazy, but they also go away after about 6 miles. About the time that the cracks start up, the road also starts stair-stepping upward. Then, it starts going consistently upward. It's a pretty tough climb, but the road is pretty good, it's quiet, and the mix of firs, pines, and oaks is pretty gorgeous. On this climb, there are enough trees and it will probably be late enough in the day that you'll start getting shade again.
Phil will be up there with food and water and ice somewhere near where the road crests Boulder Ridge. Beyond that point, you get a nice 2 or 3 miles of downhill at 6% grade or so, down to the White River. At the bottom, you'll pass the junction with NFD 43 on your left, and then start climbing again. It's 9 miles from NFD 43 until the junction with OR 35 and the top of the ride, but only the first mile or so is steep. The rest is generally uphill, but there are some flat and even downhill sections.
Once you hit OR 35, you're home free. It's actually mostly downhill to Barlow Pass, with maybe 1/2 mile of shallow climbing, and then a couple more miles downhill to the OR 26 junction. It's 2 miles and change up to Government Camp, the penultimate control. I went to the Mt. Hood Brewing Company, watched the tour for 40 minutes, and had a beer and a plate of ribs. It was awesome.
Even though it's likely to be hot, be sure to pack a warm layer for the descent, as it's a lot cooler at 4500' than it is in the desert. ESPECIALLY if you're likely to on the mountain at night.
The next 20 miles are really quick. For the last 8 miles, you have to climb out of the Sandy River for a mile or so, and then it's rollers into Sandy. From Government Camp back to the Safeway took me 1:10, for a total ride time of 14:30.